Question Center

Edge 312—February 17, 2010

"A New Age of Wonder"


Comment Internet modifie-t-il notre rapport au réel ?
Hubert Guilaud

Addio allo scienziato con la testa fra le nuvole, oggi preferisce fare surf: la scienza è diventata pop
di Franco Bolelli

A New Age of Wonder
Long Beach, California
February 11, 2010

A New Age of Wonder

Where the Dawning of the Age of Biology Was Officially Announced

In the summer of 2009, in a talk at the Bristol (UK) Festival of Ideas, physicist Freeman Dyson articulated a vision for the future. He referenced The Age Of Wonder, by Richard Holmes, in which the first Romantic Age described by Holmes was centered on chemistry and poetry, while Dyson pointed out that this new age is dominated by computational biology. Its leaders, he noted, include "biology wizards" Kary Mullis, Craig Venter, medical engineer Dean Kamen; and "computer wizards" Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and Charles Simonyi. He pointed out that the nexus for this intellectual activity — the Lunar Society for the 21st century — is centered around the activities of Edge.

Dyson continued to articulate his vision for a new age of biology in a related article ("When Science & Poetry Were Friends") in New York Review of Books in which he wrote:

"...a new generation of artists, writing genomes as fluently as Blake and Byron wrote verses, might create an abundance of new flowers and fruit and trees and birds to enrich the ecology of our planet. Most of these artists would be amateurs, but they would be in close touch with science, like the poets of the earlier Age of Wonder. The new Age of Wonder might bring together wealthy entrepreneurs like Venter and Kamen ... and a worldwide community of gardeners and farmers and breeders, working together to make the planet beautiful as well as fertile, hospitable to hummingbirds as well as to humans."

Indeed, Dyson was front and center in August 2007, at "Life: What a Concept", an Edge Special Event where he joined scientists Craig Venter, George Church, Robert Shapiro, Dimitar Sasselov, and Seth Lloyd. According to Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the event "was one of those memorable events that people in years to come will see as a crucial moment in history. After all, it's where the dawning of the age of biology was officially announced."

As a follow up, the Edge Master Class 2009 featured a weekend course taught by the two leading genomic researchers in the world: George Church and Craig Venter. "A Short Course in Synthetic Genomics" for a small group of scientists, entrepreneurs, cultural impresarios and journalists that included architects of the some of the leading transformative companies of our time (Microsoft, Google, Facebook, PayPal). The proceedings of both events are available on Edge Video.

Edge is a Conversation

Edge is different from The Algonquin, The Apostles, The Bloomsbury Group, or The Club, but it offers the same quality of intellectual adventure. Closer resemblances are to The Invisible College and the Lunar Society of Birmingham.  The early seventeenth-century Invisible College was a precursor to the Royal Society. Its members consisted of scientists such as Robert Boyle, John Wallis, and Robert Hooke. The Society's common theme was to acquire knowledge through experimental investigation. The Lunar Society of Birmingham, an informal club of the leading cultural figures of the new industrial age — James Watt, Erasmus Darwin, Josiah Wedgewood, Joseph Priestly, and Benjamin Franklin. In a similar fashion, Edge gathers together those who are exploring the themes of the post-industrial age.

Through its Master Classes, the Edge Dinners, the World Question Center, the Edge Videos, and it's Special Events, Edge gathers together the third culture intellectuals and technology pioneers and entrepreneurs and presents their conversation as a public service through its online salon edge,org.

One of the venues where this ongoing conversation takes place is at Edge Dinners, the most recent of which took place last week, during the week of TED 2010 in Long Beach, California. Dinner guests included a number of individuals who are playing a significant role in this new age of wonder through their scientific research, enlightened philanthropy, and entrepreneurial initiative: Lawrence Brilliant, M.D., Sergey Brin, George Church, Bill Gates, W. Daniel Hillis, Dean Kamen, Kary Mullis, Nathan Myhrvold, Larry Page, Jeff Skoll, Craig Venter, and Nathan Wolfe.

Below is a the guest list and a link to the photo album.

John Brockman


The Guests

Chris Anderson, Curator, TED; Chris Anderson, Editor, Wired; Yves Behar, Designer, FuseProject; Tim Berners-Lee, World Wide Web Consortium , MIT; Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon.com; Zack Bogue, Montara Capital Partners; Stewart Brand, Long Now Foundation; Lawrence Brilliant, M.D., Skoll Urgent Threats Fund; Sergey Brin, Co-Founder & President, Technology, Google; John Brockman, Edge Foundation; Max Brockman, VP, Brockman, Inc.; Rodney Brooks, Computer Sciencist, Heartland Robotics, MIT; Jason Calacanis, CEO, Mahalo; Jean Case, The Case Foundation; Steve Case, Revolution Health ; Laura Chang, Editor, Science Times, The New York Times; Nicholas Christakis, Network Scientist, Harvard ; George Church, Genomics Researcher, Harvard; Larry Cohen, Gates Foundation ; Jared Cohen, US State Department; June Cohen, Director, TED Media; Keith Coleman, Gmail Product Director, Google; John Cusack, Actor; Daniel Dennett, Philosopher, Tufts; Susan Dennett; Peter Diamandis, X Prize; Esther Duflo, Economist, MIT; Denis Dutton, Founder & Editor, Arts & Letters Daily ; Jesse Dylan, Film Director, FreeForm; Juan Enriquez, Biotechonomy LLC; Tony Fadell, Advisor to Steve Jobs & Former Senior VP, iPOD Division, Apple; Bill Gates, Chairman, Microsoft; Co-Chair, Gates Foundation; Matt Groening, The Simpsons; Sam Harris, Neuroscientist; Annaka Harris, Co-Founder, Reason Project, Editor; W. Daniel Hillis, Computer Scientist, Applied Minds ; Pati Hillis; Arianna Huffington, The Huffington Post; Chad Hurley, Co-Founder, CEO, YouTube; Xeni Jardin, Co-Founder, Boing Boing; Bill Joy, Kleiner Perkins ; Shannon Joy; Daniel Kahneman, Psychologist, Princeton; Salar Kamangar, VP, Product Management, Google; Dean Kamen, Inventor, Deka Research; Rosemary Leith, The World Wide Web Foundation; Steven Levy, Wired; Danielle Lambert, Former Senior VP, Human Resources, Apple; Benoit Mandelbrot, Mathematician, Yale ; Aillette Mandelbrot; John Markoff, The New York Times; Katinka Matson, Cofounder, Edge Foundation; Marissa Mayer, VP, Search Products & User Experience Google; Dave Morin, Facebook; Kary Mullis, Chemist, Altermune, Inc.; Nancy Mullis; Nathan Myhrvold, Intellectual Ventures; Jacqueline Novogratz, Acumen Fund; Tim O'Reilly, O'Reilly Media; Dean Ornish, M.D., Preventive Medicine Research Institute; Larry Page, Co-Founder & President, Products, Google; Lucy Page Southworth, Biomedical Post-Doc, Stanford; Lori Park, Google; Ryan Phelan, DNA Direct; Jean Pigozzi, Investor, Liquid Jungle Lab; Ricardo Salinas Pliego, Grupo Salinas, Grupo Elektra; Nicholas Pritzker, Hyatt Development Corporation; Lisa Randall, Physicist, Harvard; David Rockwell, Architect, The Rockwell Group; Andres Roemer, La Ciudad de las Ideas Festival; Jacqui Safra, Investor, Vintner, Encyclopædia Britannica; Michael Shermer, Skeptic Magazine; Jeff Skoll, Participant Media ; Galia Solomonoff, Solomonoff Architecture Studio; Michael Specter, The New Yorker; Linda Stone, Hi-Tech Industry Consultant; Kara Swisher, Wall Street Journal, All Things Digital; Richard Thaler, Behavioral Economist, University of Chicago; Michael Tchao, VP, iPAD Product Marketing Division, Apple; Anne Treisman, Psychologist, Princeton; Craig Venter, Genomics Researcher, Synthetic Genomics; Karen Wickre, Google; Evan Williams, CEO, Twitter; Anne Wojcicki, 23 and Me; Susan Wojciki, Vice President, Product Management, Google; Nathan Wolfe, Biologist, Stanford; Stephen Wolfram Physicist, Wolfram Research; Elise Wolfram

The Photos

Evan Williams (@ev)

Bill Joy, Stewart Brand, Sergey Brin

Daniel Dennett & Nathan Myhrvold

Larry Page, John Brockman,
George Church, Craig Venter

Benoit Madelbrot

Nancy Mullis & Kary Mullis

Xeni Jardin, Nathan Wolfe,
Marissa Mayer


EDGE DINNERS 1998-2009

February 2, 2010

Comment Internet modifie-t-il notre rapport au réel ?

Hubert Guillaud

"How does the Internet transform the the way you think? ", that was the big Edge annual question, with responses from some 170 experts, scientists, artists and thinkers. It's difficult to make a synthesis since the contributors are many and varied, and often passionate. Whether fans or critics of the revolution in information technology, in any case, it is clear that the Internet does not leave anyone indifferent."

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Also see Huber Guillaud's 5 part series on the Edge question posted at the Internet Actu.net website :

09.02.10 - un réseau d’humains et de machines enchevêtrées
10.02.10 - la grande question de l’attention
11.02.10 - en modifiant notre rapport au monde réel
12.02.10 - l’internet n’a-t-il rien changé ?
12.02.10 - Et vous ?

February 15, 2010

Addio allo scienziato con la testa fra le nuvole, oggi preferisce fare surf: la scienza è diventata pop

di Franco Bolelli

"Do you remember the stereotype of the scientist with his head in the clouds, perched in his laboratory dealing with mysterious formulas? Well, has also done the end of the phone booths or VCRs, finally lost in the stormy ocean of change. Finally, yesterday's austere discipline, cold and distant, has undergone a sweeping metamorphosis and science has been made unexpectedly pop: warm, communicative, and more humane.


If you venture between the conference video of TED, a real brain trust of innovation, if you dip into that inexhaustible source of ideas that in the books edited by John Brockman (particularly Science, Next Generation [ED. NOTE: this volume was edited by Max Brockman]) will not have any doubt: the science has not only taken possession of the philosophical debate, but is rewriting the map of our imagination. There is a force in science communication and energy that will not be bounded by the old borders and forced to fit inside the old categories.

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Edited by John Brockman

"An intellectual treasure trove"
San Francisco Chronicle

Edited by John Brockman

Harper Perennial


[click to enlarge]

Contributors include: RICHARD DAWKINS on cross-species breeding; IAN McEWAN on the remote frontiers of solar energy; FREEMAN DYSON on radiotelepathy; STEVEN PINKER on the perils and potential of direct-to-consumer genomics; SAM HARRIS on mind-reading technology; NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB on the end of precise knowledge; CHRIS ANDERSON on how the Internet will revolutionize education; IRENE PEPPERBERG on unlocking the secrets of the brain; LISA RANDALL on the power of instantaneous information; BRIAN ENO on the battle between hope and fear; J. CRAIG VENTER on rewriting DNA; FRANK WILCZEK on mastering matter through quantum physics.

"a provocative, demanding clutch of essays covering everything from gene splicing to global warming to intelligence, both artificial and human, to immortality... the way Brockman interlaces essays about research on the frontiers of science with ones on artistic vision, education, psychology and economics is sure to buzz any brain." (Chicago Sun-Times)

"11 books you must read — Curl up with these reads on days when you just don't want to do anything else: 5. John Brockman's This Will Change Everything: Ideas That Will Shape the Future" (Forbes India)

"Full of ideas wild (neurocosmetics, "resizing ourselves," "intuit[ing] in six dimensions") and more close-to-home ("Basketball and Science Camps," solar technology"), this volume offers dozens of ingenious ways to think about progress" (Publishers Weekly — Starred Review)

"A stellar cast of intellectuals ... a stunning array of responses...Perfect for: anyone who wants to know what the big thinkers will be chewing on in 2010. " (New Scientist)

"Pouring over these pages is like attending a dinner party where every guest is brilliant and captivating and only wants to speak with you—overwhelming, but an experience to savor." (Seed)

* based On The Edge Annual Question — 2009: "What Will Change Everything?)

Edge Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit private operating foundation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

John Brockman, Editor and Publisher
Russell Weinberger, Associate Publisher

Alexandra Zukerman, Assistant Editor
contact: [email protected]
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